Book Review : What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

October 1, 2015 Book review 23 ★★★★

What I really loved about this book was that it featured a teenage dad.  That feels like such a unique perspective to find in YA book but a role that is filled regularly in real life.  And even better on finding this unique perspective is to find that it does it with a realistic, unsentimental angle.

Book Review : What You Left Behind by Jessica VerdiWhat You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
on August 4th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Buy on Amazon

It's all Ryden's fault. If he hadn't gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead he's failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it's not like he's had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She's fun and energetic-and doesn't know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg's journals only stirs up old emotions. Ryden's convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can't let go of the past?


First Line of What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

“If there’s a more brain-piercing sound than a teething baby crying, I can’t tell you what it is.”

My Thoughts on What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi:

This story is told from the pov of Ryden and one thing you have to know about Ryden is that his life is a little like a Shakespeare tragedy.  His girlfriend who had cancer has died giving birth to their baby daughter Hope.  And now he is left with all the responsibility, none of the know how and a large bucket of resentment.

I liked that this book wasn’t sugar coated.  Ryden doesn’t want his life to change, he wants to play soccer, go to college, go to keg parties and he makes rash and often self-centred decisions.  But this all felt so realistic to me.  He is a teenage boy thrown into situations that a person twice his age would struggle to cope with.

We only get to know Hope’s mother via her journal entries and we get a glimpse of just how much being a mother meant to her.  I know lots of people won’t get her decision but I do.  I empathise totally with her choices.

The other main character in the book is Joni who works with Ryden after school in Whole Foods.  I liked her character; she is quirky, spirited and a little bit wacky.  And I LOVED her reactions to events in the book, I loved that she put herself first, as a young unencumbered teenager, that is exactly what she should do.

The whole book is realistic, sad but hopeful and full of meaning.  I loved the theme of having to accept what life throws at you and just making the best of what you have.  I also appreciated that the romance was central to the plot but it didn’t take over from the theme of moving on and acknowledging that you can’t change the past.

If I have to stick my really critical hat on; I’d say the book tries to take on to many issues; teenage pregnancy, teenage cancer, death, money worries, the woman’s right to choose.  That’s a pretty wide agenda but you know what? It still worked.  I appreciated the struggle of the characters and it was written in such a relatable style that I really enjoyed following along on their journey.

Overall big thumbs up.  Looks like I need to check out some more books by Jessica Verdi.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: four-stars


Who should read What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi?

I’d highly recommend this to you if you like coming of age books that deal with emotional issues in a meaningful way.  I’d also recommend this to you if you like character growth, an authentic feeling male point of view and a poignant storyline.  Fans of Weightless by Sarah Bannan, Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross and Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian might also enjoy.

Thanks to NetGalley and Source Books for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


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23 Responses to “Book Review : What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi”

    • trish

      It still worked surprisingly well even with all those issues. It could have been a disaster but I really, really enjoyed it.

    • trish

      I definitely think it’s worth grabbing and I have noticed that we often have similar tastes so I think you’d like it Laurel.

    • trish

      I agree, it did pack in a bit too much! I still really enjoyed it though. Going to check your review now 🙂

  1. Lola

    A teenage dad is a really original perspective indeed! I don’t think I ever encountered that perspective before in a book. What a sad premise though with his grilfriend dying giving birth and how he has to care for the baby alone. And wow that’s impressive the book still works while tackling so many heavy issues. I like the sound of how realistic this book is asthat’s something I appreciate in books. Great Review!
    Lola recently posted…Lola’s Kitchen: Potato Curry Recipe

    • trish

      It was a really sad premise and that made it a very emotional read. But it also moved past that too and it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I thought it was great that it tackled such dark topics but still remained realistic and entertaining.

  2. Sarah @ One Curvy Blogger

    Trish! I LOVE the new look!! It has been so long since I visited and I am totally regretting it. I liked how straight forward Joni was, too. I applauded because yeah, just because she loves him doesn’t mean she has to forget all her plans and settle down. She’s a teen! I liked that it was realistic, even if Ryder was irritating and selfish at moments. It felt real and that is hard to find in romance. 🙂
    Sarah @ One Curvy Blogger recently posted…Quote-tastic Review #1: Rock hard by Nalini Singh

    • trish

      Thanks so much Sarah! The design is only a few weeks old but I’m still in love with it and it makes me smile every time I click on here 🙂
      I totally agree that Ryder was selfish and even clueless at times but that’s just so real. That’s what I’d expect from someone in his situation and I loved that it portrayed such a real and raw pov. And Joni was fab!

    • trish

      So glad to hear that Brandee. I thought this one was so raw and real and it oozed with emotion! And I love that it featured a teen dad, it’s surprising really how rarely that gets portrayed in books.

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